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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress is being made with the promotion of best practice in parliamentary scrutiny in developing countries. 
Ian Pearson: Work to strengthen parliamentary institutions is a significant element of the UK's foreign policy, including in developing countries. Legislative assemblies have a key role in overseeing the action of Governments. We have supported work in this area in many countries, including Uganda, where the UK has supported an Office for Parliamentary Development; in Nigeria, where the UK is supporting a broad-based package aimed at strengthening the National Assembly; and support to parliamentary oversight bodies, e.g. Public Accounts Committees, in, among others, Sierra Leone and Malawi.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent estimate he has made of the number of UK workers in Equatorial Guinea; and in which sectors they are working. 
Ian Pearson: The most recent elections in Equatorial Guinea were the municipal and legislative elections inApril 2004. An EU statement was made following these, which the UK supported. This document can be found at http://europa.eu int/abc/doc/off/bull/en/200406/pl06022.htm.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 4 July 2005, Official Report, column 183W, on Iran, whether the information received has now been verified; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British embassy in Tehran have both made efforts to verify claims of the disappearance of Ebdal Karimi. We have not been able to do so because we do not have sufficiently detailed information. We note that the original information was provided by an Iranian opposition group that is often not a reliable source. Without further information we are unlikely to be able to verify the claims.
Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of reports of the mistreatment and torture of detainees by Iraqi security forces; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Straw: We condemn all forms of abuse. Where we have suspicions or evidence of abuse by Iraqi security forces we take immediate action to raise our concerns at the highest level with the Iraqi Government. They have said that they will not tolerate abuse and that they will investigate anyone suspected of abuse and prosecute where evidence substantiates those suspicions.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 16 June 2005, Official Report, column 650W, on Israel, whether the Government of Israel has informed him that it has withdrawn demolition orders already issued in respect of Silwan Village in east Jerusalem. 
Dr. Howells: No such information has been received from the Israeli Government. However, we understand that the demolitions have been put on hold. UK officials in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem continue to monitor developments.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take steps to establish an international monitoring presence in the
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occupied territories to ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians are fulfilling their obligations to the road map; and if he will ensure that plans for such a presence have (a) an explicit human rights component and (b) a timetable for implementation. 
Dr. Howells: The international community is well aware of the failings on both sides in implementing their roadmap commitments. In particular, Israel has not frozen settlement expansion and the Palestinian Authority has not adequately tackled terrorism. No international presence could ensure better implementation without the full support of both sides.
The international community is however closely involved in disengagement, with the parties agreement. Quartet (UN, US, EU and Russia) Special Envoy for Disengagement James Wolfensohn is working in co-ordination with the parties and with US security co-ordinator General William Ward, and with the support of the international community.
Israeli withdrawal of all settlements from Gaza and of four from the northern West Bank, plus reformed Palestinian institutions, should help enable both sides to make continued progress in meeting their roadmap commitments.
Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the government of Israel for the release from house arrest of Mordechai Vanunu. 
Dr. Howells: My right hon. and noble Friend the former Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean) raised our concerns with the Israeli Charge" d'Affaires following Mr. Vanunu's release in April 2004, as did our ambassador in Tel Aviv with the Israeli Government. We have since raised the issue with the Israeli Government on numerous occasions
We are aware that Mr. Vanunu was indicted on 17 March for violating the terms of his release from prison and that this has resulted in a further year's extension of the restrictions previously imposed on him. We recognise that Israel has a right to protect its national interest but we are concerned that the restrictions may be excessive and punitive. Our embassy in Tel Aviv will continue to monitor his case closely.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his Department's total spending on management consultants has been in each of the last three years. 
Mr. Straw: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave him on external consultancy in general on 25 May 2005, Official Report, column 134W. Expenditure specifically on management consultancy is not categorised separately and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he expects that aid promised by the G8 summit to the Palestinian Authority will be received by (a) Hamas-led
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administrations and (b) Hamas mayors, with particular reference to the Hamas mayors in (i) Kalkiya, (ii) Hebron, (iii) Bethlehem, (iv) Rafah and (v) Beit Lahia. 
Dr. Howells: The G8 summit announced support for the quartet-appointed (UN, US, EU and Russia) special envoy for disengagement James Wolfensohn's intention to stimulate a global financial contribution of up to $3 billion per year over the next three years. Mr.Wolfensohn has indicated that the aid would be spent on a range of infrastructure and job creation schemes in the Gaza strip and northern west bank, to help revitalise the Palestinian economy following the Israeli withdrawal from those areas. The details of how this aid would be distributed have not been finalised. There are no plans for the aid to go directly to Hamas-governed municipalities.
Dan Norris: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he plans to take to carry forward the promotion of peace, stability and reform in the Middle East during the UK's presidency of the EU. 
Dr. Howells: On the Middle East Peace Process, the EU will continue to play, through the Quartet (UN, US, EU and Russia), a key role in supporting the Palestinian Authority's efforts at institutional reform and Prime Minister Sharon's disengagement plan. Stronger Palestinian institutions and a successful disengagement are necessary for Roadmap implementation. For the EuroMed region, November's EuroMed Tenth Anniversary Summit will be a critical opportunity to help the EU's Mediterranean Partners to meet the challenges of the 21st century, including in education, economic reform and good governance. The EU stands ready to support a representative Lebanese Government in carrying out political and economic reforms and calls on Syria to take action to promote regional stability. And we will promote reform and security through our relations with other countries in the region, including through the EU Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Dan Norris: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken to bring about the disarmament of Hezbollah forces in Southern Lebanon, in compliance with UN Security Council resolution 1559. 
Dr. Howells: The disarmament of non-Lebanese and Lebanese militias, including Hezbollah, as required by United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1559, is a complex issue that will take time to implement. The Government believes that the process of disarming the militias in Lebanon needs to be Lebanese-led, and once the new government of Lebanon is formed we will be discussing with it how the UK and our international partners can assist with the full implementation of UNSCR 1559.
Dr. Howells: Terrorism has caused many innocent casualties, and Hamas has been responsible for numerous attacks. Such actions undermine the efforts of the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority to make progress on the Middle East peace process. They also undermine Palestinian President Abbas' authority and the Palestinian Authority's ability to meet its commitments on security, and economic and political reform made at the London meeting.
The UK notes the commitment made by Hamas, and other Palestinian groups to President Abbas in Cairo in March to adopt a conditional cease-fire until the end of 2005. The UK calls for Hamas to go further and renounce violence, choosing participatory politics as the only means of working towards a lasting peace in the Middle East.
Dan Norris: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his latest estimate is of the progress made by the Palestinian Authority in reforming its security services in line with commitments made at the London meeting in March. 
Dr. Howells: Following the pledges made at Sharm el Sheikh on 8 February and the London meeting on 1 March, the Palestinian leadership has made some progress with security reform, but more needs to be done both in order to provide a climate of law and order for the Palestinian people, and to prevent appalling crimes such as the suicide bombing in Netanya. We welcome the progress that has been made, eg the reshuffling of Palestinian Authority (PA) security chiefs in April and the streamlining of the security forces, and we are encouraged by Abu Mazen's commitment to security reform. But much more remains to be done.
Security co-operation continues with frequent co-ordination meetings between the Israelis and Palestinians. It is vital that this co-operation continues in the run-up to Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the North West Bank.
The United States is leading in the efforts to assist the PA in achieving its goals. General William Ward is working with Palestinian officials and we are actively supporting him. We will continue to work to ensure that this reform programme is successful in the longer term.
Dan Norris: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effects of Iran's nuclear programme on future stability in the Middle East following the results of the Iranian Presidential elections. 
The proliferation of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery is a serious threat to international peace and security, in the Middle East and elsewhere. Following an agreement reached in Paris in November 2004, the UK, France and Germany, supported by the EU High Representative, have been in discussion with Iran about long term arrangements for its nuclear programme. These should provide objective guarantees that Iran's nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes. The new Iranian President elect, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has said the talks will go on. We remain fully committed to the Paris agreement. We continue to honour our commitments, and expect Iran to do likewise.
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Dr. Howells: Israeli disengagement from Gaza and part of the West Bank is due to start in mid-August. There has been some co-operation between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, but there have only been limited agreements so far, e.g. to demolish settler housing inappropriate for the Palestinian population. While this is positive, it is essential that the two sides step up their co-ordination in the coming weeks.
We welcome the appointment of James Wolfensohn as the Quartet's (UN, US, EU and Russia) Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement. He is already working with the parties. His goals are the economic revitalisation of Gaza and the West Bank, and to assist with further Palestinian governance reform. G8 leaders on 7 July 2005 endorsed his approach and supported his intention to stimulate a financial contribution of up to $3 billion annually for the next three years from the international community.
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